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MOL denies purchasing INA shares from Croatian gov't

Hungarian oil and gas company MOL did not buy any shares of the Croatian oil company INA from the Croatian government as part of its latest INA transaction, therefore, the company is unable to interpret the statements to that effect and rejects any references trying to portray MOL in an unfavorable light, MOL told MTI in a statement late on Tuesday.

MOL raised its stake in INA from 25% to 47.15% in a public buyout offer in September 2008. The Croatian state holds a 44.85% stake in INA, and the remaining shares are held by small shareholders.

MOL was responding to a Monday statement by Croatian president Stjepan Mesic, who said it would be good if the anti-corruption office (USKOK) queried ex-prime minister Ivo Sanader and former deputy PM Damir Polancec regarding the terms under which some of the shares of the Croatian oil company INA were sold to MOL.

Mesic said in a radio statement on Monday that although the sales contract has been published, the public has still not received information regarding how Croatia has benefited from the transaction and what amount of money was involved in the deal. Mesic said that the contract assigned the company management rights to MOL, thereby Croatia effectively lost its control over the company's decisions.

The Croatian Public Prosecutor's Office (DORH) said on Tuesday that it requested access on November 20 to the documents related to MOL's acquiring a stake in the Croatian oil company INA.

DORH said it was necessary to view the documents to establish whether the contracts related to the acquisition harmed Croatia's interests.

Croatian PM Jadranka Kosor emphasised that neither the Sanader-led previous government nor the current government sold any state-owned INA shares except for the share packet of the fund supporting Croatian war veterans. She noted that state-owned INA shares were sold to MOL by the government coalition preceding the Sanader-government, led by Ivica Racan.

MOL "has been following with interest the various statements and articles by politicians, which in many cases do not truthfully represent last year's developments", the company said in the statement.

MOL said it had bought the INA shares from thousands of Croatian citizens at a premium through a public bid in October 2008, at a price of HRK 2,800 per share. The bid price meant a premium of HRK 1,110 compared to the IPO price of INA shares (HRK 1,690). MOL noted that INA shares closed at HRK 1,681 on Monday, therefore, those who accepted the bid are enjoying a premium of more than 65%.

The transaction was then approved by the Stock Exchange Supervision authority and Brussels, as well as the Croatian competition office, with the condition of the sale of the Crobenz retail network, MOL added. (MTI-ECONEWS)